Pixel Scroll 1/20/23 Scrolling About Pixels Is Like Stardancing About Naval Architecture

(1) SHORT SFF REVIVAL. Charlie Jane Anders diagnoses the problem and then brings forward “Some Ideas for How to Save Short Fiction!”

Short fiction is once again in crisis. After an era when the Internet seemed to be helping a lot of short stories find a bigger audience, the same thing is now happening to short stories that are happening to a lot of other content: the invisible hand is raising a big middle finger. Among other things, Twitter is getting to be much less useful in helping to spread the word about short stories worth reading, and Amazon just announced that it’s ending its Kindle subscription program from magazines, depriving magazine publishers of a pretty significant slice of income….

Here’s a short example out of several ideas Anders pitches.

I’d love to see more short fiction turning up in incongruous contexts

This is something I talked about a lot in the introduction to my short story collection Even Greater Mistakes (shameless plug alert!). I am always happy to see short stories show up on coffee bag labels, in pamphlets on public transit, scrawled on bathroom walls, or in the middle of a publication that mostly includes serious non-fiction pieces about politics and culture. I feel like we could be doing more to leverage the ability of short stories to show up in surprising places and suck us in with their narrative power.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Paul Di Filippo’s partner Deborah Newton wrote to friends that on January 19 Paul was hit by a large SUV. 

The driver stopped, spoke to Paul and gave him her phone to call Newton.

I ran the three blocks to where the accident had occurred — the ambulance passed me as I ran.  Luckily there was a witness whose moving car was facing the accident when it happened and had a video camera on the dashboard.  He made arrangements with the police, who had already arrived, to share the video.  

Those of you who have met Paul in the flesh will not be surprised that he dragged himself up after the huge hit, and even climbed by himself into the ambulance.  The Dr. at the ER later called that “adrenaline”, but I believe Paul has a stronger energy and will than most of us mere mortals.

After extensive testing in the ER it was determined he sustained no head wounds or broken bones. However, writes Newton, “He is covered with bruises and has a large hematoma on his left thigh. His hip, where he believes he landed after the hit, is excruciatingly painful.”

He is back home, presently using a walker to get around.

(3) LIVE FROM 1968. Cora Buhlert returns to Galactic Journey as one of the contributors to a “Galactoscope” column, reviewing Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber — and also talking about some of the biggest protests her hometown has ever seen. There are also reviews of Picnic on Paradise by Joanna Russ, a Jack Vance book, an Andre Norton book and several others: “[January 20, 1968] Alyx and Company (January 1968 Galactoscope)”.

… However, with the sale of the Ziff-Davis magazines to Sol Cohen, the appearances of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser in the pages of Fantastic became scarce. It seemed the dynamic duo was homeless once again, unless they shacked up with Cele Goldsmith Lalli over at Modern Bride magazine, that is.

So imagine my joy when I spotted the brand-new Fafhrd and Gray Mouser adventure The Swords of Lankhmar in the spinner rack of my trusty import bookstore…

(4) 2024 NASFIC UPDATE. Sharon Sbarsky, the Pemmi-con/2023 NASFiC committee member in charge of NASFiC 2024 Site Selection, announced today that the Buffalo in 2024 bid has filed. She published the following extract from their letter of intent.

Upstate New York Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance Inc. is pleased to present this letter of intent, along with Visit Buffalo Niagara, to host the 16th North American Science Fiction Convention in Buffalo, New York USA in 2024 .

Details of the bid

Proposed date: July 18-21, 2024

Proposed site: Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Convention Center & Buffalo Niagara Convention Center

Proposed Headquarter Hotel: Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Convention Center

Upstate New York Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance, Inc. is a NYS registered not-for-profit corporation focused on encouraging and running fannish activities in New York State. Members of our bid committee include individuals who have experience working on Worldcon / NASFiC events, as well as others who have organized small conventions and other events across New York and Southern Ontario
https://buffalonasfic2024.org/

Sbarksy added: “Members of Pemmi-con will be able to vote in the Site Selection. Details will come at a later time. We hope to have electronic voting, similar to the Worldcon and NASFiC selections at Chicon 8. 180 days before the Start of Pemmi-Con is January 21, 2023, so the ballot is still open for additional bids.”

(5) GETTING UNSTUCK. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware delivers another warning: “Bad Contract Alert: Webnovel”.

A bit over two years ago, I wrote about two companies, A&D Entertainment and EMP Entertainment, that appeared to have been deputized by serialized fiction app Webnovel to recruit authors to non-exclusive contracts. The contracts from both companies were (and continue to be) absolutely terrible.

EMP Entertainment no longer appears to be active (it has no website and I’ve heard nothing about it since 2020), but A&D is still going strong, and over the past two years I’ve been contacted by a lot of (mostly very young and inexperienced) writers who are confused about its complicated English-language contract, or have changed their minds about signing up and want to know how to get free (as with the contracts of so many serialized fiction apps, there’s no option for the author to terminate).

A&D recruits via a bait and switch. Writers are solicited by an editor or Author Liaison who claims to have discovered the writer’s work on Amazon or elsewhere, and invites them to publish on the Webnovel platform (the bait)….

(6) DON’T JUST ROLL THE DICE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “5 Things SecOps Can Learn from Dungeons & Dragons” at Tech Beacon. Note, “SecOps” is tech shorthand for “Security Operations” (or possibly “Security Operators”)

… Anyone who has ever experienced a SOC 2 or ISO 27001 audit might see the parallels between a lengthy framework of rules and their arbiter. Still, D&D is significantly more fun than a cybersecurity audit. In fact, when it comes to security preparedness there are quite a few lessons that security operations (SecOps) teams that are responsible for the security of connected assets—including myriad Internet of Things (IoT) devices—can learn from D&D. And they might just have a bit of fun along the way.

Assemble Your Party

From wizards and warriors to clerics and rogues, there are a wide variety of classes in D&D—each with its own specializations. The key to an effective adventuring party is to combine them in a way that the strengths of one character can mitigate the weaknesses of another. Building a cybersecurity team is no different. Aside from all the specialized roles within cybersecurity, such as incident-response or threat-hunting teams, an effective approach to security preparedness requires cross-functional collaboration between IT teams, operational-technology (OT) teams, and other lines of business to better understand how to balance business objectives with security requirements….

(7) A THEORY ABOUT THE HOBBIT.  Scott McLemee poses the questions in an “Interview with Robert T. Tally Jr. on historicizing ‘The Hobbit’” for Inside Higher Ed.

Q: You don’t historicize The Hobbit in the naïve or narrow sense of interpreting it as a fictionalized response to real-world events. Your approach owes a great deal to the American Marxist literary theorist Fredric Jameson—the subject of your first book. What does it mean to read Tolkien as a Jamesonian?

A: “Modernism” is a dirty word among many Tolkien enthusiasts, and perhaps for Tolkien himself, but I see his desire to “create a mythology for England” as a powerfully modern thing to attempt, more like Yeats or Joyce than most mere medievalism. Also, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are clearly novelistic in form, even if they deal with “epic” or “romantic” ideas.

In his work on postmodernism, Fredric Jameson refers to the “attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place.” Coming from an entirely different direction politically, I think Tolkien was deeply concerned with the modern world’s inability to “think historically,” and thus his desire to connect elements of the medieval historical world with our own time, even if—or especially if—that meant using fantasy as a way of sort of tricking us into “realizing” history.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2021 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing was a novel that I nominated for a Hugo. Why so? Because it is damn good. It made my top ten novels of that year by having a fantastic story, great characters that for the most part I could care about and not one but two truly interesting settings, the first being the intelligent bioship You Sexy Thing, and the other being a restaurant situated near a defunct star gate.

Now unlike the restaurant in the Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy, this one is not played for laughs and is real, working environment. I don’t know if Rambo has worked in such a place but she captures the feel of it very nicely as I have a very long time ago and it seems quite right.

Now before we get to the quote, I’m very, very pleased to note that the next novel in the series is indeed out relatively soon. Here are the details courtesy of the author:

Devil’s Gun, available this August, follows the adventures of intelligent bioship You Sexy Thing and its crew. While seeking a weapon against the pirate king Tubal Last and operating a pop-up restaurant near a failed star gate, Niko and her friends encounter a strange pair of adventurers who claim to have power over the gates that link the Known Universe.  But following the two on an intergalactic treasure hunt will require going into one of the most dangerous places any of them have ever faced.

Of course it will be available from all the usual suspects in both print and epub formats. 

Now I normally choose the quote, but this time I’m honored to say that Cat chose her favorite quote about food from You Sexy Thing:

[Niko] looked at Dabry, who stood ignoring them, caressing the eggplant with all four hands and his eyes half closed. “Sweet Momma Sky, should we leave so you can have your way with that eggplant or should I just let you take it to your bunk?”

His eyes closed entirely, expression blissful. “Baba ganoush,” he said. “Flat wheat bread dusted with cumin. Seared protein tinctured with lemon and garlic…”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. He’s available at the usual suspects. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” They’re his only ones — he didn’t do SF as he really preferred Westerns. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 89. The Fourth Doctor and still my favorite Doctor. My favorite story? The “Talons of Weng Chiang” with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worst of the stories were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. And yes, he turns up briefly in the present era of Who rather delightfully. Before being the Doctor he had a turn as Sherlock Holmes In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and though not genre, he played Rasputin early in his career in “Nicholas and Alexandra”! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad,The MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech-made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of ten percent among audience reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 77. Director of the first Dune movieWent on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1960 Kij Johnson, 63. Faculty member, University of Kansas, English Department. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. She has won a Best Novella Hugo for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” had several other nominations. Much of her work is available at the usual suspects.
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 59. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Get Fuzzy makes a noble pun about a bestselling horror writer.
  • Eek! deals with a young superhero’s fib.

(11) FRANKLY SPEAKING. In “When Monsters Make the Best Husbands”, a New York Times reviewer tells about two plays, one of genre interest.  

The monster is nestled in a glacier when the villagers dig him out, frozen but not dead, because he was undead already. Tall, broad-shouldered, hulking in his platform boots, he is instantly recognizable, and once he thaws, proves unpretentious despite his Hollywood fame.

It is 1946 in a tiny European village, and he is the most endearing of monsters: awkward, uncertain, just wanting to help out. And in “Frankenstein’s Monster Is Drunk and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences,” a winsome cartwheel of a show that’s part of the Origin Theater Company’s 1st Irish festival, he finds lasting romance — with a local outcast who falls in love with him at first sight. Never mind that by his own account he is “constructed from the dismembered body parts of a number of different corpses”; their sex life is fabulous….

(12) BEGIN AGAIN. The Cromcast, a sword and sorcery podcast that started as a Conan readthrough, are rereading all the Conan stories again ten years after they launched. They started with “The Phoenix on the Sword”, the very first Conan story: “Season 18, Episode 1: The Phoenix on the Sword!”

“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of…”

(13) HE-MAN. The For Eternia YouTube channel has a great interview with Tim Sheridan, one of the writers of Masters of the Universe Revelation/Revolution, about why the Filmation Masters of the Universe cartoon resonated with so many gay people: “The Power of Pride: Talking Importance of 1980’s He-Man on the LGBTQ+ Community with Tim Sheridan”.

(14) THE NATURE OF REALITY COUNTS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I know from being involved with SF2 Concatenation that quite a few fans are interested in the interface between science and science fiction: after all, the term ‘science fiction’ contains ‘science’. Consequently, it should not be any surprise that all of the four YouTube Channels I invariably check out each week are SF and/or science related.

One of these is PBS Space-Time. It is ostensibly a physics channel (though often there’s astronomy and cosmology) and there’s nothing like at the start of the day having a mug of Yorkshire builders tea (sufficiently strong that the teaspoon stands up in it) along with a short episode of PBS Space Time: it is good to limber up with some physics before embarking on the serious biological and geoscience business of the day (tough as that is for Sheldon Cooper to take).

One aspect of the SF-science border is an exploration as to the true nature of reality. Are we living in a holographic universe? Are we living in a Matrix simulation? And if so is there a simulator?

This week’s PBS Space Time asks the question as to whether the Universe is simply, and purely, mathematical (not physical)? And if so, what of parallel Universes, dimensions and alternate Universes? Indeed, are there different levels to the multiverse?

Be assured, despite maths (or ‘sums’ as we environmental scientists call it) being in the title, there are no heavy mathematics in this short video, rather it is a somewhat deep philosophical discussion. Nonetheless, don’t worry if you find your mind being stretched: that’s what daily limbering up exercises are all about.

So, sit down with your mug of builders and enjoy this 16 minute slice of Space Time“What If The Universe Is Math?”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

23 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/20/23 Scrolling About Pixels Is Like Stardancing About Naval Architecture

  1. First!

    Kai Johnson’s The Fox Woman is one of those wonderful novels that you hope you get to read. And the rest of her fiction is just as great.

  2. Pierre E. Pettinger, JR. says If we are counting monster movies as genre (and I generally do), DeForest Kelly was in Night of the Lepus. (Yes, giant, carnivorous rabbits.)

    We are. Good catch.

  3. (9) “Francesca Buller, 59. Performer and wife of Ben Browder … played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee.”

    Pretty much all of whom tried to murder Ben Browder’s character, which is kind of hilarious.

  4. How to save short fiction? I’ve seen too much the last few years that tells me why it’s in trouble – please remember that the point is to TELL A STORY, not merely show how literary you are.
    Best to Paul Di Filippo
    Absolutely true. Many years ago, a friend I dungeoned a lot with had gotten into martial arts. He told me about the time his dojo went out in the woods for a war game with another dojo… and he, of course, set up things like snares, and intruder alert traps… and they won.
    A. Merritt. If you haven’t read anything of his, do so. Really. The Metal Monster, the Moon Pool, the Face in the Abyss… and REALLY – Dwellers in the Mirage. And no, the creature/god in that latter isn’t Cthulhu….
    The nature of reality… um, math is a language, and we use it to describe something that ordinary language cannot, that doesn’t fit into ordinary words. But just because we use it as a language… remember (to quote Korzybsky’s General Semantics) “the map is not the territory”.

  5. (14) John A Wheeler’s autobiography (?) showed up as a book deal this week. Read a preview, liked his writing, bought it. “Geons,” etc.

  6. 9) Having seen that Dungeons & Dragons movie that Tom Baker is in, 10% seems awfully generous, TBH.

  7. (9) Tom Baker was also perfect as Puddleglum the Marshwiggle in the TV version of The Silver Chair. Also my favorite Doctor.

  8. Birthdays could also have Mitch Benn, 53, Musical Comedian and SF fan whose songs include “a Call me during Doctor Who and I’ll kill you,” as first aired on Radio 4 the day before the 2005 relaunch.
    He has written three YA novels about a baby raised by an alien after her parents are thought killed during a close encounter: Terra, Terra’s World, Terra’s War.

  9. (1) From the essay: “We could all just shout about [short stories] more.”

    When an author tweets/toots/posts about their story (or whatever) it’s much more valuable to retweet or retoot or whatever-your-platform-does to get it in front of more eyes. A Favorite/Like is just a pat on the back, it doesn’t really garner any more visibility for the work.

  10. Even in self publishing the short story is frequently seen as nothing more than a series magnet, to be given away in order to attract readers.

    That’s not been my perspective. I write short stories either for anthology submission, general circulation to magazines, or worldbuilding tied to a series. I don’t sell a lot but….

    I’ve made covers for my previously published stories and put them up at the Usual Suspects. I don’t charge much. The sales aren’t huge, but…another thing I observed when I was doing a lot of in-person sales at bazaars, people really like buying short story chapbooks as stocking stuffers at Christmas. The pattern seems to hold for ebook short story sales. I ended up selling a lot of stories this past Christmas.

    What this suggests to me is that doing something besides magazine submissions for short stories is a strong possibility, and that if one doesn’t really care about award visibility, it’s well worth it to start putting up individual stories. Publishing is not a static business and it behooves writers to keep that in mind.

    (Note to other authors: a color laser printer capable of duplex printing can turn out a lot of short story chapbooks. Color laser, long-arm stapler, Word’s Create Booklet feature and…you’re in business)

  11. (2) Wow. Best wishes to Paul Di Filippo. I am glad it does not appear to be more serious.
    (9) A. Merritt. I probably attempted to read some paperback reprints of his work back in the 1970s, but remember nothing. I don’t own any, which tells me something too. I did enjoy his 1918 short story, “The People of the Pit”, published first in January 5, 1918 All-Story Weekly. I read this in the Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s a tale of cosmic horror from the frozen north that either influenced H. P. Lovecraft or was influenced by him.

  12. Once upon a time when things were more wonderful and perhaps the stars were a little brighter, Charles de Lint did an annual short story that he printed up through his Triskell Press and sent out as a gift to us. I’m not sure why he stopped doing it but I miss getting them.

  13. I don’t want stories in “unexpected places,” especially “places” that are packaging that as a practical matter I’ll have to throw out. I think Joyce Reynolds-Ward has the right idea.

    I hope Paul has a good recovery.

  14. Re, 7: OVERTHINK. Just enjoy the stories. “The Hobbit” was a story for his son when little, the ring trilogy was written over time while his son, now grown, was fighting in WII. His angst over his kid in the war, his personal knowledge of WWI, his love of nature, and his desire to create an epic mythological world all came together to create it.

    RE: Tom Baker, I got to meet him when he did a “pledge drive” segment for Doctor Who when it aired on the KCET, the PBS station in Los Angeles in the early to mid 1980’s. If anyone has a videotape of it, I’d love to see it again. I had taped it, but my mother thought it was far more important to tape a Frank Sinatra special! It was my Tardis they used for segments between the show.

    My favorite Baker film was “Golden Voyage of Sinbad.” I think he was the best of the Sinbad villains. John Phillip Law was the best Sinbad, and the supporting cast were very good. Did you know that Kurt Christian, who played Haroun, was actually an English Duke?

  15. @Joyce Reynolds-Ward
    I also sell short stories and novelettes as individual e-books or themed collections and while they don’t sell a lot, they do sell.

    I know that the common advice in self-publishing circles is to give away short stories to newsletter subscribers, but I personally don’t do that. Never mind that sending out my newsletter is something I intensely dislike, so I rarely do it.

    One thing I have had some success with is putting up a story for free on my blog every month. The full story stays up for exactly one month, then I take it down and put up the next one. Not

  16. @Cora Buhlert, we have a lot in common that way.
    Once I realized that my Martiniere stories were moving into…well, fanfic of the original series, I set up a Substack and am serializing the Martiniere books and the occasional short story there. All free. Granted, it’s all rough draft work, and there will be differences between those stories and what gets published, but…those stories are kinda difficult in the first place. Not really litfic, because there’s too much SF in them. Not really SF, because there’s too many relationships and thematic issues verging on litfic for the typical SF reader. As has been made rather clear to me….

  17. Aah.. subject to the vote at NASFIC/Pemmicon (2023) for 2024 NASFIC/Buffalo, the summer of 2024 now looks as follows (re major Cons) and all days given here, are inclusive : (1) Thu 18-Sun 21 July : NASFIC 2024/Buffalo (NY, USA); then switching over to Europe: (2) Sat 3-Wed 7 Aug : LocationCon2024 (England, then Wales and then Scotland (*)); then Thu 8-Mon 12 Aug: Worldcon 2024 (SEC site, Glasgow, Scotland) and finally (3): Thu 14-Sun 18 Aug: Eurocon/ErasmusCon 2024 (Ahoy Centre, Rotterdam, Netherlands). [ * Visits (all by train or coach) to Woking, South West of London (H G Wells-War Of The Worlds), in London itself (No 6’s house, a TARDIS and Steed’s flat), in North West Wales (“Llanfair PG” (look this up) and Portmeirion) and finally –on way to Glasgow (arriving there the day before that Worldcon starts)– “Wicker Man” locations, in South West Scotland. Web site for LocationCon 2024 very soon. ]

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